Friday, November 14, 2008

The Sideshow Gathering 2008, Part 1

For the second year in a row the Sideshow Gathering was held at The Woodlands Inn & Resort in Wilkes-Barre, PA. I wasn't able to attend the first evening's festivities, which were held on Halloween, but I did try to spend as much time there as I could the rest of the weekend.

My timing was a little off both days. Saturday I arrived just in time to witness a tattoo fashion show and awards ceremony which, as anyone who was there could tell you, was bewilderingly confusing. Many of the tattoos were impressive, to say the least. One person - who was not participating in the contests - had what I think of as a "career-limiting tattoo," the image of a screaming skull tattooed over half of his shaved head. At one point one of the sideshow folk turned to him and said, "And what line of work are you in?"

But eventually the sideshow acts got started again. Aye Jaye began his bit with a diatribe against anyone who pretends to be a legitimate psychic or mentalist, focusing particular vehemence at those who prey on the bereaved who seek solace wherever they can find it. Having said that, he then proceeded to pull four victims volunteers out of the audience for a mentalist routine of his own.

Next up was Natasha Veruschka, the Queen of Swords. I had seen her briefly at last year's Gathering, about the same time I caught a glimpse of the lovely Sally the Cinch, but I didn't manage to see her routine. This time I did. Natasha began with a bit of exotic dancing, pulling some members of the audience into the act. She then began to swallow a series of progressively larger blades.

I believe this marked the first time I have ever seen a sword swallower in person. There is no "trick" to sword swallowing. What you see is what you get: the blade goes in the mouth, down the throat and the esophagus, and into the stomach - and if all goes well, nothing gets pierced or punctured along the way. It's a dangerous thing to do. Don't try this at home.

And you especially shouldn't try it if your sword is actually an energized neon tube.

Earlier in the evening I had noticed Sally the Cinch, wearing the costume of an everyday person instead of a talented exotic dancer with two bellybuttons and the ability to "cinch" her midsection to twelve inches around, speaking to two very attractive and perhaps too-skinny identically dressed girls. These girls, I would soon find out, were part of the Crispy Family Carnival.

The Crispy Family Carnival: Crispy (with whip);
Flora (or was it Fauna?) preparing to dance Tom Lehrer's Masochism Tango;
the Professor (next to sword ladder); Fauna (or perhaps Flora?) seated on the edge of the stage.
Aye Jaye is in the red striped jacket in the front row.

Twins, Basil! TWINS!
Flora and Fauna were a lot of fun to watch, and not just because they were very attractive almost-identical twins. They were performing the entire time they were on or near the stage: every pose, every movement, every gesture, all carefully controlled and deliberately done.

The audience was a bit dismayed when the member of the troupe who disrobed for our entertainment was Crispy himself, revealing two bright shiny nipple rings. "I'm not Nippulini, but..." he began. He then attached two thick chains to his nipple rings on one end, and a car battery on the other and, with much grunting and groaning, lifted the car battery by the chains hanging from his nipple rings. It was a remarkable and striking performance, only diminished slightly when, at the end, Flora picked up the battery by the chains with one hand and tossed it lightly across her back. She must be immensely strong.

Last up was Dr. Wilson, of Memory Elixir fame. In my admittedly limited experience, Dr. Wilson has always brought more than a touch of class and charm to the festivities. He did a routine involving a length of cloth - a stand-in for an unwound turban - as a large-scale version of the rope that mends itself after it has been cut. He also gave a demonstration in which he slowed his pulse to the point that it could no longer be detected.

At the end of the night Dr. Wilson performed a new trick: The Perilous Garden, in which he walks barefoot and blindfolded through a maze of leg-hold traps. Seriously not something you should try at home!

And that was just the first night that I was there. There was plenty more to come the next day!

Can't wait? View more photos from the Gathering on the Sideshow World website!

The exciting sequel: Another Monkey: The Sideshow Gathering 2008, Part 2